What Is Title Insurance, and How Much Does Title Insurance Cost?

title insurancebarisonal/iStock.com

Buying a home often entails also buying various types of insurance to protect your property, and one type you might need to get is called title insurance.

When you buy a home, you “take title” to it and establish legal ownership. A title insurance policy protects you against the possibility that someone else might have a claim on your home. In essence, it ensures that a homeowner and their lender will be okay in the event that the seller or previous owners didn’t have absolute ownership of the house. (It sounds crazy, but sometimes it turns out that the homeowner is not the only one with rights to a home!)

If you need a mortgage to buy real estate, your lender will likely require you to buy a title policy from a title insurance company. Although it’s a cost home buyers incur, getting a title policy from a title insurance company is critical to establishing peace of mind.

Let’s examine the ins and outs of title insurance, why home buyers need it, how much you can expect to pay, and how you can save on a title insurance policy.

What is title insurance?

Holding a title insurance policy means you and your mortgage lender are protected against any financial loss or title issues due to liens, disputes between prior owners over wills, clerical problems in courthouse documents, or fraudulent claims against the property or forged signatures.

A title search will be performed by your title or settlement company to uncover any issues with your title that could give you legal troubles down the line.

The title company then insures your claim to the property’s title. If anything is missed during the search or there are lawsuits questioning your legal ownership of the property after closing, your title insurance policy will cover the costs of resolving the problem.

Why a title search is required with a mortgage

When getting a mortgage to buy real estate, you’ll find that most lenders will typically require that you get a title search before you close the deal with your escrow company. Basically this would mean you’ll have to hire a title company to search local records on your property. Some of the issues they’re looking for include the following:

  • Disputes between prior owners over wills: If your property was inherited and then sold by the heirs, there could be other heirs contesting the will and claiming ownership of your property.
  • Liens for unpaid property taxes.
  • Liens for contractors who worked on the home but were never paid.
  • Clerical problems in courthouse documents: Believe it or not, a simple typo can lead to title claim problems.
  • Fraudulent claims against the property or forged signatures: For example, if a group of heirs can’t get a holdout to agree to sell the home, it’s possible that someone will forge a signature on a quit claim deed.

While most homeowners will never need to use their title insurance, its existence offers protection against a potentially aggravating—and very expensive—financial loss.

Lender’s title insurance vs. owner’s title insurance

There are two types of title insurance: lender’s and owner’s. Almost every lender will require you to pay for a lender’s title insurance policy. This protects the lender—not you—from incurring any costs if a title dispute pops up after closing.

Owner’s title insurance is usually optional, but it’s highly recommended. Without it, you’ll be left footing the bill for all the costs of resolving a title claim, which could be thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even though it can feel like you’re hemorrhaging cash when you’re closing on a house, a title insurance policy is one of those things that can save you money in the long run.

“When you consider the benefits of title insurance and some of the unique aspects of title insurance relative to other kinds of insurance, it is clear why it’s risky and ill-advised to purchase real estate without a title insurance policy,” says Brian Tormey of TitleVest in New York City.

You can purchase basic or enhanced owner’s title insurance, with the enhanced insurance policy offering more coverage for things like mechanic’s liens or boundary disputes.

While your title insurance covers you for things such as mistakes in the legal description of your property or human error, be aware that it will have some exclusions—particularly in cases where violations of building codes occur after you bought your home.

How much does title insurance cost?

The average cost of title insurance is around $1,000 per policy, but that amount varies widely from state to state and depends on the price of your home.

Title insurance premiums can vary from a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars. Some factors that can affect the cost of your premium include the title search, examination, and expected cost of any title defects.

“In general, each policy price is based on the purchase amount of the home or the total amount of the loan,” explains Tormey. “Title insurance is a highly regulated industry, so title insurance policy types and costs will vary from state to state. Each state’s Department of Insurance can provide information on the pricing regulations in their state.”

In some states such as Texas and Florida, title insurance premiums are fixed by the government, so you will pay exactly the same amount no matter what. Other states such as California and New Mexico have unfixed premiums, which means that buyers can shop around. Iowa actually underwrites the insurance itself, resulting in the lowest premiums in the country: $110 for properties costing up to $500,000.

Unlike other types of insurance, a title insurance policy is paid with a single premium during escrow while closing for your mortgage. If you’re buying a real estate resale or refinancing, you may be eligible for a “reissue” rate, which could offer a substantial discount off the regular premium—because the title policy is already in effect, and the title research has already been completed.

Here’s a calculator that can help you figure out the cost for your area and purchase price.

How to save on title insurance

In some states, title insurance premiums are the same no matter who you work with, but in the majority of states, you can save money by shopping around. Even in states with highly regulated title insurance industries, there are ways to save. Here are some ways to lower your title insurance costs.

  • Shop around. If premiums are unregulated in your state, find the company that offers the best deals. Just make sure you’re not sacrificing customer service to save a few dollars: Resolving a title issue can be stressful, and you want a company that will help you through the process. Read reviews and talk to your real estate agent for recommendations.
  • Bundle. Some companies will offer a discount if you bundle your lender’s and owner’s policies.
  • Negotiate add-ons. Even if the premium itself is fixed, there are almost always other fees built into your total premium price. See if there is any wiggle room with those items. They may be optional, or the insurance company might be open to discounting them.
  • Negotiate with the seller. Closing costs are always open to negotiation, and picking up the tab for the title insurance might be worth it to a seller who’s highly motivated to close the deal. But be wary of using this tactic in a competitive market.

 

Michele Lerner contributed to this article.

The post What Is Title Insurance, and How Much Does Title Insurance Cost? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

L.A. Home From Film Classic ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ Available for $3.8M

realtor.com, Warner Brothers/Getty Images

“The scene: An Italianate villa in a once-fashionable section of Los Angeles. Its halls—once crowded with the bright, the beautiful, the celebrated. A window barred against the world…”

That’s how this iconic home in Hancock Park was described in the trailer for “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” starring the film legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

The classic L.A. residence was built in 1928 and played a crucial role in the 1962 film. It was where the aging Hudson sisters lived, loved, and fought.

It’s been spruced up considerably since its cinematic turn and is currently on the market for the first time in 50 years. The asking price for this slice of silver screen history is $3,795,000.

The home offers five bedrooms and five bathrooms on 4,778 square feet of living space.

In addition, the quarter-acre lot features a saltwater pool and a detached two-story guesthouse with a cabana, as well as a full bathroom and sauna downstairs. Upstairs is a studio apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, and fireplace.

“What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” house in Hancock Park

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As seen in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?”

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Living room

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Bedroom

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Backyard

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Most importantly, there are no traces of the dark, dreary interiors that gave the film its creepy vibe.

The classic black wrought-iron staircase railings do still exist, but they’ve been painted a cheery white. Most of the walls are also white and bear no evidence of the sad, patterned wallpaper seen in the movie.

Staircase in the movie

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Staircase now

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A large kitchen is also stark white and features gray-toned granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, and a bay window that looks out onto a colorful bougainvillea.

Above that bougainvillea might be the tell-tale window through which the young neighbor caught glimpses of an imprisoned Joan Crawford.

Kitchen

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But even with all the changes to the interior, the front view remains the same.

And here’s a reason for that. The home sits in a historical zone, where changes to the facades of homes aren’t permitted.

However, fresh paint and classic landscaping have worked wonders. The arched entryway, red tile roof, and symmetrical windows are as elegant as ever.

Front exterior

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Scrolled wrought-iron front gates from the film

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The classic psychological thriller tells the story of two sisters, both former child actresses, one of whom is planning a comeback and has evil designs on the other.

Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, also in the twilight of their careers, starred along with Victor Buono.

Davis created her own makeup for her role as Baby Jane Hudson and was nominated for an Academy Award. The film received a total of five Oscar noms, and won one for Best Costume Design—Black-and-White. A tale based on the story behind the film’s conception was told in the 2017 series “Feud: Bette and Joan.”

The post L.A. Home From Film Classic ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ Available for $3.8M appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

Wild on the Waterfront: This Custom-Built Florida Mansion Is So Totally ’80s

Florida waterfrontRafal Wazio/ Cary John Photography

A custom-built waterfront house with serious “Miami Vice” vibes is on the market for $3.2 million.

Built in 1986, this throwback house on Belle Isle Avenue in Belleair Beach, FL, is on the Intracoastal Waterway. Located near the warm waters of the Gulf, it sits on a key just outside the city of Clearwater.

“From the exterior, it’s an architecturally stunning home, because it doesn’t conform to anything in today’s easy, breezy, coastal, aesthetic demands. It’s quite the opposite of that,” says the listing agent, Rafal Wazio.

No gray walls, quartz countertops, and vinyl plank flooring here. Instead, you have an 1980s masterpiece with oodles of color, recessed and neon lighting, and bold geometric shapes.

“It’s a completely architecturally stunning home from the outside and from the inside. You know, it just wasn’t built as a McMansion,” Wazio says.

The colorful residence measures 5,579 square feet but has only three bedrooms—and the agent is well aware of the unique floorplan.

“There aren’t too many 5,500-square-foot, three bedroom homes. This one is designed as an en suite, so each bedroom comes with its own bathroom, its own closet, and beautiful open water view,” he explains. “It’s designed for the lifestyle of the owners.”

Exterior of home in Belleair Beach, FL

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Exterior

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Exterior

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Interior

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Interior

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Interior

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Master bedroom

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Bedroom

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Bedroom

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Bedroom

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Each of the bedrooms comes with a not-so-modest feature: An open-air bathtub occupies the same space as the sleeping quarters.

Wazio compares the look to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas or the Parker resort in Palm Springs.

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Watch: Kansas’ Most Expensive Home Has a Water Feature You Won’t Believe

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“The bathrooms themselves are separate, but the tubs are all within the bedrooms,” he notes.

Master bedroom

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Master bedroom tub

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Master bathroom

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Master bedroom

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The master bedroom features elaborate glass doors and a statement mirrored ceiling, with a black jetted bathtub near the entry doors. An all-black bathroom with a number of accent lights and pops of gold is a private retreat.

Outdoor space

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A secluded outdoor space right off the master bedroom includes a spiral staircase leading up to the other decks.

Kitchen

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Kitchen

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Kitchen

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Kitchen

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The kitchen is sleek and glossy, including a cooktop on the peninsula and space for eating. The dining space nearby overlooks the water.

Game room

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Main living space

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Game room

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Bar

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The main living space is two stories high, with plenty of chrome and a wall of windows. The bedroom entrances are on a balcony overlooking the space. A game room is located off the central space.

Several interested parties have toured the property and some have put in bids. Wazio says. Most of the visitors say they would keep it as it is, he says, with only one advocating for a complete overhaul.

Deck

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Deck

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Pool

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Deck

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Outdoor space

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Pool

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Exterior

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Dock

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The outdoor space is ideal for the Sunshine State lifestyle, with a pool, dock, and terraces on multiple levels.

“It’s an entertainer’s home—and it’s unapologetically an entertainer’s home. That’s probably one of the coolest features,” says Wazio.

The entertaining deck atop the home has 2,300 square feet of party space, with easy access to the home’s multiple levels via a glass elevator.

Quite apart from the sheer amount of space for throwing a bash, it’s the breadth of the vistas that attract attention.

“It’s incredible,” Wazio says. “You basically have four different views from four different directions from up there. You can look east, west, north, south.”

Pool

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Exterior

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On the ground level, a patio area offers a gorgeous spot to take a dip.

“The pool and spa are stunning with unique tile accents, using the same tiles the designers of the Versace pool in South Beach used,” Wazio says.

The home also boasts a dock out back, making it easy for the owners to navigate the short distance to the Gulf of Mexico.

The sellers designed and built the home and are planning to move out of the area. They’re waiting for the perfect buyer to come along in an area that is not known for its flamboyance.

“It’s an architecturally cool beyond words home. It’s probably going to end up selling to an entertainer,” Wazio says. “If we were in Miami, Vegas, or L.A., this would already have been a done deal.”

Aerial view

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Bathroom

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Office

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Bathroom

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Interior

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Aerial view

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Exterior

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Office

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Interior

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Aerial view

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Dining space

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View

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The post Wild on the Waterfront: This Custom-Built Florida Mansion Is So Totally ’80s appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

The Complete Guide to Buying a Vacation Home in Retirement

couple on beach thinking about buying a vacation home

It’s been a goal for decades—a vacation home—and now it’s time to realize that goal. And while you should absolutely seize this opportunity, there are a lot of details to figure out before buying a vacation home during retirement. Here’s what you need to know about owning a vacation home from start to finish.

Paying for a Vacation Home

The first question anyone should ask before buying a vacation home is, “Can I afford it?” Your vacation home may be smaller than your primary residence, but if it’s in a desirable destination it could be more expensive.

If you need to pull money from retirement savings to afford a vacation home, think twice. But if your primary residence is paid off and you have a substantial down payment for a second home, a vacation property may be within your budget.

Your cost for a vacation home includes more than the purchase price. You want to account for additional expenses in your calculations, including:

  • Taxes: In addition to property taxes, you’ll pay higher taxes on the sale of a second home. Second homes aren’t eligible for the capital gains exemption.
  • Homeowner’s insurance: This may be higher if the vacation home has a pool, waterfront, or is in a flood zone. You need additional coverage if you plan to use the property as a rental.
  • Property management: If your home is vacant for long periods or you rent it out, you may want a property management agency to oversee maintenance, marketing and other logistics for you.
  • Moving expenses: While it’s a one-time cost, moving is costly, especially interstate moving. Compare the cost of moving furniture against buying new furnishings where your vacation home is located. For the items, you intend to move, use a moving cost calculator to understand what you can expect to spend.

Renting Out Your Vacation Home

Many vacation homeowners use their property as a short-term rental to offset the costs of ownership. Renting out your vacation home can be a smart call, but don’t underestimate the time and money involved. Unless you live nearby, you want to hire professionals to manage the property for you, including a:

  • Property manager to market the unit, handle tenant relations and coordinate maintenance.
  • Cleaning service to deep clean the unit before renting it out and between renters and your own return.
  • Landscaping company to maintain the exterior of the property.

It’s also important to be realistic about how renting a second home affects your own use of the property. You may not be able to use your vacation home during the most popular travel weekends if your goal is to maximize rental income. Know your priorities and whether you want to use your second home as an investment or just subsidize the mortgage payment. How frequently you rent your second home also affects your tax obligation.

Security for a Second Home

Whether you rent out your second home or leave it vacant, you need extra security to protect against vandalism and burglary. Vacation homes are susceptible to criminal activity; if burglars notice your home frequently sits empty, they’ll consider it an easy target for property crime.

Home security deters crime and protects you if something does happen. A monitored security system is best because it notifies authorities automatically if a break-in is detected. Self-monitored systems require you to react and call for help instead.

Up-front costs and monitoring subscription fees vary widely for home security systems, so research home security systems and set a realistic budget based on your security needs. Keep in mind that a strong security system may get you a cheaper rate on homeowners insurance.

These are other security features to consider for your vacation home:

  • Smart keypad locks: Smart keypad locks are especially convenient for short-term rentals because you can change the code between tenants. And vacation homeowners appreciate the ability to let maintenance workers and cleaning staff with the click of a button.
  • Smart smoke detectors: Traditional smoke detectors aren’t helpful if no one’s home. But smart smoke detectors send push notifications to your phone, so you or your local property manager can call the fire department in the event of a fire.
  • Smart leak detector: If your vacation home is in a flood-prone area or has aging plumbing, buying a leak detector is a small price to pay for peace of mind. These devices alert you when water is detected, so you can take action before serious damage occurs.

Maintaining a Vacation Home

This article covers how to keep an eye on your vacation home from afar, but what about when something goes wrong? It’s easy to keep up on maintenance when you live in a home and notice every strange noise, but problems in a second home easily go undetected. And the longer a problem sits, the bigger it can grow.

Proactive maintenance is necessary to prevent your vacation home from turning into a money pit. Start with listing your home’s major systems and when they’re due for service. Then, prepare for minor repairs by screening handymen now—before you need one. That way you know exactly who to call when something goes wrong and can trust that you’re getting a fair price. You can find handymen—as well as cleaning services and landscapers—at online sites, such as Home Advisor and Angie’s List.

If you can’t get your eyes on your vacation home on a regular basis, hire someone else to manage maintenance. Many property management agencies include inspections and maintenance coordination in their service plans. Before taking a hands-off approach to second home maintenance, double-check your contract. If you think maintenance is covered and it’s not, you could be in for an expensive surprise.

Owning a vacation home in retirement can be an amazing reward after decades of hard work. But if you do it wrong, it can also be a major burden. Before investing in a vacation home, make sure you understand what you’re signing up for, from the mortgage payments to the maintenance. As long as you’re prepared for the realities of owning a second residence, buying a vacation home could be the best choice you ever make.

Taking the Plunge into a Mortgage for Your Vacation Home

Just like with your primary residence, you’ll likely need a mortgage for your new vacation home. You can look at mortgage loans right here on Credit.com and use the Credit.com mortgage calculator to investigate options for different loan rates and terms.

You may also want some helpful advice if it’s been a while since you took the plunge on the loan for your current home. You can find helpful articles in the Credit.com Mortgage Resource Center, including a look at how your credit score affects your mortgage.

About the Author

Jim McKinley is a retired banker with almost 30 years of experience. He created MoneywithJim.org to share his advice and other resources on a variety of financial topics. In his spare time, Jim spends time with his family and his dogs and he maintains his website. It’s a very lovely life that he’s grateful for every day.

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Homie’s Las Vegas, Nevada Housing Market Update October 2020

As the Las Vegas fall season comes around, the Las Vegas market keeps on going up. Read below for Homie’s update.

In October, the real estate market saw growth on most fronts including the number of listings, number of units sold, and in terms of median listing price and sales price. However, units available and availability went down year-over-year. With that said, we’re still seeing the market continue to grow month-over-month which might indicate that buyers and sellers are becoming more comfortable in the existing real estate market.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Monthly Sales

According to the data from the GLVAR® from October 2020, Las Vegas real estate realized a 6.8% increase in the number of single-family units sold compared to 2019. 

 

List Price

Average new list prices stay strong year over year as October records a 9% increase in new listing prices for single-family units and 8.8% increase for condo/townhouse units. 

*Data from the GLVAR® from October 2020 and October 2019

 

Sale Price

Property prices continued to grow as this seller market keeps on strong. We saw an 8.8% increase in year-over-year median price for single family units, and also a 14.3% increase in year-over-year median price for condos and townhouses.

*Data from the GLVAR® from October 2020 and October 2019

 

Days on Market (DOM)

We saw the Average Cumulative Days on Market continue to decrease in October 2020, as demand for this market continues to go strong. Now averaging an insanely brief 33 days on market versus 81 Average Cumulative Days on Market in 2019. This is a strong indicator that the real estate market will continue to remain strong. 

*Data from the GLVAR® from October 2020 and October 2019

 

Want to Know How Much Your Home’s Value?

Want to know how much your home is worth? Click here to request your home value report [https://www.homie.com/home-value-report]

 

Turn to a Homie

Homie has local real estate agents in all of our service areas. These agents are pros in everything they do, including understanding the local real estate market. Click to start selling or buying and to get in touch with your dedicated agent.

Call us at (702) 550-1081

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Presented by Homie, NV Lic. # B.144145

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What This Military Family Faced—and Fought—To Buy Its First House

first time home buyerNatalie Johnson

First-time home buyers today face a tough road, shopping for homes during a pandemic, high housing prices, and deep economic uncertainty. For military families deployed overseas, it’s all even trickier to figure out.

In this second story in our new series “First-Time Home Buyer Confessions,” we talked with husband and wife Kyle LaVallee and Natalie Johnson. They were renting an apartment in Fayetteville, NC, when they decided to start shopping for their own home in the area in April.

At the time, LaVallee was stationed in the Middle East as a sergeant in the U.S. Army. Yet even though he was thousands of miles away, he managed to attend every home tour with Johnson via FaceTime. In July, they closed on a brick, ranch-style three-bedroom that LaVallee would not see in person until a long-awaited trip home in October.

Here’s the couple’s home-buying story, the hardest challenges they faced, and what LaVallee thought of his new house once he home managed to lay eyes on it for the first time.

Location: Fayetteville, NC

House specs: 1,166 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms
List price: $111,900
Price paid: $115,000

A pandemic plus deployment seems like a tough time to buy your first house. What convinced you to forge ahead?

Johnson: Kyle was deployed in October 2019 while we were renting a one-bedroom apartment in Fayetteville. Kyle wasn’t fond of renewing the apartment lease—we had been there for two years and were running out of space. We wanted to get a dog; we wanted a yard, and our own property where we can do anything we wanted.

We started educating ourselves on the process. We knew a mortgage was going to be significantly less than what we were paying in rent. Kyle thought it would be smart to buy because [nearby] Fort Bragg is one of the biggest military bases in the world. If we ever leave or get stationed somewhere else, we’re not going to have a problem finding anyone to rent it. And we could always come back.

Kyle LaVallee and Natalie Johnson at one of their favorite hangouts in Fayetteville, where they’ve decided to put down roots

Natalie Johnson

LaVallee: I was interested in gaining equity and ownership, rather than just paying to rent something I’d never own in the end.

Johnson: We started looking at houses back in January. In April, we kept seeing information about lowering interest rates. That’s why we got serious about the process in the middle of the pandemic, and when we connected with our real estate agent, Justin Kirk with Century 21.

How much did you put down on the house—and how’d you save for it?

Johnson: We put 20% down.

LaVallee: I was making a lot of money while I was deployed, and I had no expenses really. I was just saving everything I had, knowing I wanted to invest it in a house.

Johnson: I cut spending. I didn’t buy things I wanted, just what I needed. The pandemic helped a lot, honestly because we obviously couldn’t go out.

LaVallee: We qualified for a VA loan, but we just wound up using a conventional loan. Most people in the military will use a VA loan where you don’t put any money down, but [since we had enough saved] we wanted the lowest monthly mortgage payments.

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LaVallee and Johnson on LaVallee’s first morning in the new house after coming home from deployment

Natalie Johnson

What were you looking for in a house?

LaVallee: We knew we might [eventually] be moving, so it wasn’t like it had to be a house we would stay in forever, more of an investment property.

Johnson: We were looking for things that would be attractive to future renters. We had a military family in mind because Fayetteville’s got more than 50,000 active-duty. We looked for a location close to a Fort Bragg entrance. We thought three bedrooms was perfect for us because our families are close with each other, so they’ll all come down at the same time so we’ll have two extra bedrooms for them. Kyle really wanted a garage, so that was a huge thing.

LaVallee: Garages aren’t very common down here, so that limited a lot of options for us. A lot of houses have carports, or they finish the garage and turn it into a bonus room.

Johnson: We wanted something that needed a bit of fixing up, because we like to be handy and put our personal touch on everything, and we ultimately knew that would be a lower-cost house.

Johnson and LaVallee’s new kitchen

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How many homes did you see in person, and how did Kyle participate from overseas?

Johnson: It was 10 or 12 homes. We were out three to four times a week looking at places with our real estate agent. We wore our masks for the tours, and I used hand sanitizer since I was opening and closing drawers and closets. Most were vacant, but we did tour one house that still had people living in it, although they were gone during the tour, so we avoided touching a lot of things.

During tours we FaceTimed Kyle in. We figured that was probably the most convenient way to do it since he could see every single house and room in detail.

The large living room in Johnson and LaVallee’s new house

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LaVallee: Well, I couldn’t really see all the details.

Johnson: He got to know our real estate agent really well via FaceTime. Our agent would say, “Let me know if you need me to hold Kyle while you go look in this room.” I felt so bad, though, because I work full time, so I’d tour homes around 5:30 in the evening, which for Kyle was 2:30 in the morning. But he stayed up for every single tour.

LaVallee: I was sometimes frustrated not being able to be there. I left it all up to her. I had to trust the feelings and vibes she got from each house.

The big backyard where Johnson and LaVallee hope a dog will someday run around

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How many offers did you make before you had one accepted?

Johnson: We put three earlier offers in.

LaVallee: They would be listed and the next day would be sold. The first three offers we put in were asking price, and I’m pretty sure everybody else offered more, and ours were never even considered.

Johnson: It was ridiculous. It was definitely a seller’s market, so you had to act really fast and you had to be really competitive. On our fourth offer, we ended up at $3,100 over asking. I felt like we had to fight for this house.

Johnson had to move into the new home without LaVallee’s help.

Natalie Johnson

Were you competing with other offers for the house you bought?

LaVallee: There were multiple offers.

Johnson: Our real estate agent told us, “You should definitely write a letter and talk about how Kyle’s gone right now and you’re first-time home buyers and this one really clicked with you,” which it did. The second I walked in, it’s this adorable brick house, it’s super homey, it has a great yard. In the letter, we just talked about how all of that was so attractive to us as first-time home buyers, and we were really excited and could see ourselves in this home.

Our real estate agent suggested going in higher than asking, so we just rounded up to $115,000. He also suggested doing a higher due diligence payment—we usually did $200, but this time around we did $500. And the earnest fee we put in was $500 or $600.

After our offer was accepted, we knew it was going to be kind of difficult with the home inspection. They were already redoing the roof, which was a huge cost on their part, so asking for more was definitely going to be a challenge. So we didn’t ask for much.

LaVallee and Johnson are happy they stuck it out in a competitive seller’s market and landed this home.

Natalie Johnson

What surprised you about the home-buying process?

Johnson: How fast it went, for me at least. Our first home tour was in April and then by June, we had found our house and the contracts were written up. I guess I was expecting it maybe to be double the time that it actually was, but houses were just turning over so fast, we had to act fast.

LaVallee: From my side, I thought it happened very slowly! I felt like so much was happening in between each step in the process. I had to be patient because I had so little control of the situation, other than just trying to stay involved and be a part of it.

Johnson: You never really think that when you’re married, you’re going to buy your first house while your husband is on the other side of the world. But we got through it.

Johnson and LaVallee (pictured on the right) on the day LaVallee returned from deployment

Natalie Johnson

So Natalie, you were living in the house for a few months before Kyle returned from deployment in October to see it. What was that homecoming like?

Johnson: He came home a few days shy of the 365-day mark. We were anxious and excited. Several other families and I waited outside of a hangar on base, and soon after hearing their plane landing, we saw the group walking toward us and everyone start cheering and crying.

Because it was dark when we got home, Kyle couldn’t see the outside of the house much, or the “Welcome Home” decorations I hung up! But the moment he set foot in the front door, he just stood there and looked around with the biggest smile on his face.

I gave him the grand tour the next morning. He said it looked much bigger than what he saw on FaceTime. We celebrated with a home-cooked meal and the wine our agent gave us when we closed. It was really special.

LaVallee: I came home to a nice house. Natalie was worried I would come back to culture shock. But I’ve felt at home ever since I’ve been here.

Johnson decorated the house for LaVallee’s return from deployment.

Natalie Johnson

first time home buyer
After LaVallee came home, the two finally got to toast their first home with a bottle of wine, courtesy of their real estate agent.

Natalie Johnson

What’s your advice for aspiring first-time home buyers?

Johnson: I would say to go with your gut. Some of the houses you’ll tour are really logical to buy, but if they have a bad vibe or they’re just not really welcoming, then look at others. A healthy balance between logic and feeling is important.

LaVallee: We didn’t even know what we wanted until we saw five or six houses, so it’s definitely important to shop around and see what’s out there.

Johnson: We really didn’t know much. I told our real estate agent, “Hey, listen, we’re really going to need some guidance. We don’t know what things mean, we need you to break it down for us. You have to be patient with us.” I reached out to three different real estate agents, and Justin was the one who not only answered all my questions but was giving a ton of positive feedback. It was nice to have that encouragement, and it definitely made us more confident. You learn a lot by looking at houses, you learn a ton about yourself.

Johnson and LaVallee met in elementary school.

Natalie Johnson

The post What This Military Family Faced—and Fought—To Buy Its First House appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com